Two Indian-Americans Win Coveted Rhodes Scholarship

Serene Singh

BOSTON—Two Indian-Americans– Serene Singh and Kushal Kadakia–have won this year’s coveted Rhodes Scholarship. They are among 32 scholars who will receive the prestigious scholarship to study at Oxford University in England starting next fall, representing the United States.

The total value of the Scholarship averages approximately US$70,000 per year, and up to as much as approximately US$250,000 for Scholars who remain at Oxford for four years in certain departments.

“This year’s American Rhodes Scholars—independently elected by 16 committees around the country meeting simultaneously—once again reflect the extraordinary diversity that characterizes the United States. Almost half of the winners are immigrants themselves or first generation Americans. One is an undocumented American whose immigration status is covered under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA),” said Elliot F. Gerson, American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust. “This is the first year in which DACA recipients were eligible for the Scholarship. The class overall is majority minority, as it was last year, and the 21 women are the greatest number ever elected in an American Rhodes class. These Scholars plan to study a wide range of fields across the social sciences, biological and medical sciences, physical sciences and mathematics, and the humanities. They are certain to enrich our future.”

Mr. Kadakia of Houston is a senior at Duke University with a double major in public policy and biology with a minor in global health. He is a Truman Scholar, has a perfect academic record, and was a Rothermere summer scholar at Oxford. He earned five A+ grades in independent research projects across four different departments, according to his official profile.

As a student leader, Mr. Kakadia has been chairman of the Honor Council, student body vice president, a voting member of the Duke Board of Trustees, and led the successful charge to make the Duke campus smoke-free. He is also an accomplished and much-published writer on health policy topics, and worked in the office of the North Carolina Governor on Medicaid transformation. He will do the M.Phil. in Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy at Oxford.

University of Colorado Boulder student Ms. Singh is a senior who is majoring in political science and journalism. A native of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Ms. Singh is the 20th CU Boulder student, the first CU Boulder woman, and she is among a handful of Sikh-Americans to claim the coveted scholarship. She is the university’s first Rhodes Scholar since 1993, when All Big Eight tackle and Colorado Buffaloes football team captain Jim Hansen won the award.

Ms. Singh has said she aspires to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court one day, and would be the second CU Boulder graduate to do so if she accomplishes that dream, following in the footsteps of Byron “Whizzer” White, who won the Rhodes Scholarship in 1938 and went on to become a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

“I still feel like I am dreaming,” Singh said Sunday after returning to Colorado from Salt Lake City, where she interviewed with a selection committee. “I woke up this morning with a feeling I’ve never had before. It truly felt like cloud nine times a thousand.


“I’m really proud to represent CU, Colorado, women and the Sikh community,” said Singh, who shared the good news with her two siblings and parents, G.B. Singh and Nitu Singh, on Saturday night.

Her sister, Naureen Singh, later tweeted, “My little sister made history tonight.”

Earlier this year, Singh was awarded the Truman Scholarship and named a Marshall Scholarship finalist. She is also a member of the Presidents Leadership Class, is a Boettcher Scholar, founder of the Colorado Bhangra Team, founder of National Sikh Youth Program, president of the Sikh Student Association, president of the Political Science Honor Society, a nationally certified speech and debate coach for 3P Speech, and serves as chief justice for CU Student Government.

She holds the titles of American’s Junior Miss and Miss Colorado Teen and founded her own nonprofit called The Serenity Project, Brave Enough to Fly to empower at-risk women through the skills she has gained in pageantry.

Through the The Serenity Project, Ms. Singh is said to work “to uplift women who have been marginalized or are at-risk to expand notions of female power and beauty.”

Also part of Ms. Singh’s activities are work with Michelle Obama and the Global Girls Alliance, a program of the Obama Foundation that “seeks to empower adolescent girls around the world through education,” according to the website.

At Oxford, she plans to pursue double master’s degrees in criminology and criminal justice and evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation.


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